Those of you who follow this blog may have already guessed that I sometimes use The New York Times ScienceTimes for a kind of lectio divina. The day I am writing this, my text was the exciting observation of “Ripples from the Big Bang”: “faint spiral patterns from the polarization of microwave radiation left over from the Big Bang,” believed to be evidence of the theory of inflation, the force behind the original cosmic explosion that became our universe, dating back to a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second of our cosmic “grand opening.”
I gravitated to the phrase, “a single unified force,” that predated the Big Bang:
Knowing inflation’s identity could be crucial if scientists are ever to unwind cosmic history back to the beginning, when they suspect the universe was ruled by a single unified force instead of the four distinct forces we know today: gravity, electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces.
To me this is as awesome as anything found in the first chapter of Genesis! And also mythological in its best sense: not an untrue narrative as most people misunderstand myth, but a narrative with intensely deep meaning for human imagination.
I had heard the Big Bang began with something the size of a marble, but this article suggests something infinitesimally smaller: “a subatomic quantum speck.” I have speculated in the past that this “marble” or “speck” could be the origin of our spiritual intuition that we are one: one with each other, with all creatures, with earth and stars, with all that is. The spiritual yearning for unity, overcoming dualism and differentiation, is really, I have thought, a nostalgic wish to return to the womb of this “subatomic quantum speck” and its “single unified force”—the “good ol’ days” of the cosmos.
Yes, I am probably overstepping my intellectual abilities as well as my education. Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
I might as well stick both feet in my mouth by confessing that, after a career of objecting to dualism, especially of body and spirit, I’ve never quite understood that dualism is by definition a bad thing. When I was ministering to people losing their bodies or their friends to AIDS, the separation of spirit and body came in handy to let go.
And I didn’t quite understand how a duality necessarily implied a hierarchy; why couldn’t a duality be like yin and yang, where one side is part of the other and vice versa? Or why couldn’t it be like the explanation of the Trinity where each part is a dimension of the one God—you know, just as a daughter can be a sister as well as a mother? (I was reminded this past weekend during a course on Hildegard of Bingen that she viewed the Trinity as inseparable: when one was present, all were present.)
In child rearing, differentiation is a preferred outcome. Only dysfunctional families desire a child to be a uniform expression of parents. Even so, differentiation of the cosmos has given us everything from black holes and supernovas to our pets and lovers. Differentiation, I would say, is a good thing.
I’ve used the metaphor of an expanding delta at the mouth of a river, spreading fertile soil and water to a broader expanse, to affirm the church’s diverse expressions as a good thing, rather than seeing it as the Body of Christ “broken” once more. And I apply this same principle to broader spiritual and religious diversity.
In my view, all of these are additional “ripples from the Big Bang,” and I look on them and consider them good. It’s only bad when we think our ripple is superior, or the “one way,” or the only way, or the “crown” of creation. Diversity is good. Evolution—biological and social—is good. Multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-faith, multi-disciplinary, multi-species, multi-ecologies—all are good.
Being united is also good, but absolute unity would cause the universe to collapse on itself, and we and everything we know and everything we have yet to discover would disappear.
Given the diversity of you readers, I would also consider it good to have pushback and feedback. Most everything I’ve written (not just here) raises issues for somebody out there. My ignorance far exceeds my knowledge, my imagination overreaches my scholarship, reality is way beyond my grasp.
I take comfort in the first Genesis creation story, in which Yahweh repeatedly pronounces everything created “good.” The ancient Jewish story is on to something, I believe.
Each Wednesday of Lent, I am providing links for the following six days, should you wish to use this blog as a Lenten resource for reflection.
Thursday: It’s a Small, Small World
Friday: Everybody Has a Story
Saturday: Peace in Jerusalem
Sunday: Treasure in Earthen Temples
Monday: Our Mother
Tuesday: The Thoughtful Pause
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